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The union does not plan on pushing for or agreeing to a smokeless tobacco ban

Jun 20, 2014, 8:55 AM EDT

Tony Clark AP

Ken Rosenthal spoke to Tony Clark, head of the MLBPA. The topic: smokeless tobacco. Tony Gwynn was a personal hero of Clark’s, and Rosenthal asked him if Gwynn’s death — almost certainly caused by smokeless tobacco use — was enough to get the union to either push for or agree to a ban on smokeless tobacco among major league ballplayers.

Clark’s answer: a diplomatic “no”:

“The MLBPA continues to discourage the use of smokeless tobacco products by its members or by anyone else. As you know, the subject of their use is a collective bargaining issue, and new regulations regarding the use of smokeless tobacco products were introduced in the last round of bargaining. In general terms, included in the smokeless tobacco policy negotiated in 2011 are restrictions/prohibitions on its use, increased emphasis on education and cessation programs, as well as oral examinations. At this point in time, Player education continues to be a focus of ours.”

I can’t say I have a problem with that.

I’d never use the stuff. I’d strongly urge anyone else not to. If I was in government I’d consider taxing/regulating it to bring its actual cost as a product in line with the medical and social costs it inflicts on taxpayers and society. And I would certainly make great efforts to keep it away from kids. But the stuff is legal and ballplayers are adults. They’re stupid adults if they use it despite the clear health risks it occasions, but part of being an adult is having the freedom to make dumb choices.

  1. koufaxmitzvah - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:01 AM

    Smokeless tobacco kills baseball players. Marijuana does not kill baseball players.

    One of these substances can lead to a 100 game suspension.

    • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:04 AM


      • goskinsvt - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:17 AM

        One of these substances is legal, one is banned under federal law.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:22 AM

        Fair enough – but that doesn’t change the safety of the issue. Doobage doesn’t have to be a 50 gamer, and other legal things are banned.

      • paperlions - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:20 AM

        Federal law does not have the final say on what is right or dangerous and what is not.

        The primary reason that weed is against the law and alcohol and tobacco are not has nothing to do with danger, but the history of who used them and who (if anyone) made money off of them. If rich white guys had been the primary growers and suppliers of weed, it would be just as legal as tobacco.

      • goskinsvt - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:24 AM

        “Federal law does not have the final say on what is right or dangerous and what is not.”

        Certainly it doesn’t, simply pointing out why one leads to a suspension and one does not.

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:28 AM

        Certainly it doesn’t, simply pointing out why one leads to a suspension and one does not.

        DUI”s are illegal, but no one gets suspended for them. Cocaine is illegal, but Washington didn’t get suspended for it*. Beating your wife is illegal, but no one got suspended for it. Assault is illegal, but not everyone who throws a pitch at a batter gets suspended for it…

        Players on the 40 man roster aren’t tested for weed, as they shouldn’t be.

        *how the hell did he not get suspended for that again? Anyone know the story?

      • paperlions - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:31 AM

        Yeah, the list of things a player can do that is illegal for which he can be suspended is really short. The law has never been a basis for player suspension.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:37 AM

        MLB has typically let local authorities handle punishment of players for illegal activity such as DUI’s, Assault, etc. It really isn’t the employer’s responsibility to step in in these cases, and some have argued it’s borderline illegal. MLB usually is confined to actions on the field or related to MLB’s product such as their social media policy. MLB really only has the authority granted to them via collective bargaining and their agreed upon policies.

      • goskinsvt - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:39 AM

        It’s certainly an interesting discussion as to why some illegal activities lead to suspensions while others don’t. There doesn’t seem to be much consistency, I agree.

    • mpzz - Jun 20, 2014 at 3:01 PM

      Marijuana kills lot of baseball players. Just like alcohol, steroids and tobacco.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Jun 20, 2014 at 4:30 PM

      An employer can make rules for employees about their conduct at the workplace, including banning things that are perfectly legal. Most of us would not be allowed to post pornographic photos on workplace walls. MLB and MiLB should be able to tell employees: no tobacco, period.
      Similarly, cities and stadium owners can tell employees and guests: no smoking here. So why not no tobacco at all?

  2. DelawarePhilliesFan - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:03 AM

    Freedom to make dumb choices is why people rent any movie with Vin Diesel in it. Freedom to increase the odds you will die early is another matter.

    It is a dicey issue to be sure, but I can’t help but wonder about the mixed message of the “player education” here. The Union stance seems to be: Don’t use it, but if you use it anyway, we will fight for your ability to continue to use it.

    • paperlions - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:17 AM

      Hey now, I rather enjoyed both Knock Around Guys and Chronicles of Riddick (I think those are the only Vin Diesel movies I have seen). No they weren’t high cinema, but I was entertained.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:20 AM

        Of course – after typing that, I had to Google what all he has been in. He was in Saving Private Ryan (musta been a foot soldier, I don’t remember him), so I guess I can allow for the occasional Vin Diesel flick

      • Kevin S. - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:28 AM

        He’s the guy who tries to save the French girl in the bombed out house and gets shot by a German sniper.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:32 AM

        Pitch Black was very good. Chronicles disappointed comparatively, but that’s because they decided to go in a completely different direction and didn’t follow with the expected progression of the character.

        Generally he’s a terrible actor however. I am really looking forward to Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m glad he’s limited to voice over however.

      • paperlions - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:36 AM

        Oh, wait. Yeah, I’ve seen that one, too. Totally forgot about that one somehow. Different movies (and budgets) to be sure. I enjoyed the fantastical story telling and epic nature of Chronicles…and Nick Chinlund as Toombs.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:51 AM

        @Kevin – you definitely know your facts!

      • sabatimus - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:04 AM

        Escape from Butcher Bay (Riddick PC game) was better than any of the movies by a long way :)

      • daveitsgood - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:55 AM

        I live my life a quarter mile at a time. I make no apologies for that.

      • infieldhit - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:32 PM

        You can barely recognize him, but he did the voice of the Iron Giant, which is an excellent movie. Go rent it now and… try not to cry at the end…

      • asimonetti88 - Jun 20, 2014 at 4:22 PM

        Fast and Furious movies are fun too. Again, not high cinema, but any time you have fast cars and fight scenes, you’ll likely be able to keep me entertained on a lowbrow level.

    • bigtunany - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:34 AM

      I’m not a Vin Diesel defender but Boiler Room wasn’t bad, either.

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:43 AM

        Boiler Room was great. Affleck acting like a giant d!ck in the movie, good premise, and mmm Nia Long. But good god Giovanni Ribisi could have done without the crying/whining…

  3. dan1111 - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:22 AM

    I am all in favor of people being free to make dumb choices (even dumb choices that shorten their lives). However, this is not really a personal freedom issue; it is about the right of employers to regulate the conduct of their employees. For example, you can get fired for making disparaging comments about your employer, and that does not infringe on your free speech rights.

    MLB has every right to ban smokeless tobacco in the workplace if they think it is bad PR, unprofessional, goes against their values, or whatever. Given that their belief in athletes as role models is a major driver of the steroid debate, it would really make sense to do so. Smokeless tobacco is a lot more visible to young fans and is probably more harmful to health.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:28 AM

      Sure they do. But they don’t have a big incentive, either. Tony Gwynn wasn’t on a big league payroll when he got cancer. That sucks, but it’s true.

      • dan1111 - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:42 AM

        The MLB sure thought they had incentive to ban smokeless tobacco at all levels of the minor leagues.

        I’m pretty sure the issue here is the incentives of a players’ union containing many current users, not the incentives of the MLB.

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Jun 20, 2014 at 4:34 PM

        To clarify, he may not have been an MLB player when diagnosed with cancer, but cancers can take a while to get really rolling, so he likely was a player when said cancer was being generated.

  4. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:26 AM

    I’m a former smoker and even I never touched the stuff. That stuff just scared the hell out of me. I’ll never forget the guy who did the PSA’s and traveling seminars that had half of his jaw taken out due to this stuff. That said, we do still live in America and it’s not right to infringe upon people’s personal freedoms. I understand the banning of cigarettes in public places as the smoke infringes upon non-smokers, but chewing tobacco use should be left to the individual. It’s actually really nice to see someone NOT taking a knee-jerk reaction here, using the death of a great ballplayer to further their political and personal beliefs.

    Remember folks, your personal beliefs are your own. And there are a lot of people in this world. We are all entitled to our own beliefs, but none of us have the right to infringe our beliefs on others. Freedom of choice includes freedom to make bad choices.

    • Detroit Michael - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:33 AM

      Bill Tuttle is likely who you are recalling:

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:39 AM

        That’s him! I’ll tell you, as a 8 year old boy, that guy scared the crap out of me! Although I suppose that was the point, and it did have the intended effect in the end.

    • dan1111 - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:40 AM

      Employers having standards for the conduct of their employees doesn’t infringe on “personal freedoms”. If the Yankees are allowed to have a dumb rule banning facial hair, surely banning smokeless tobacco is legitimate.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:29 AM

        But there is no suggestion whatsoever that MLB teams have any intention of banning this. Nor that they have any incentive to do so.

      • dan1111 - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:47 AM

        @Craig, how is that a response to my comment? My point is that MLB has every right to enact such a rule if they want to. Whether they want to do so is a separate issue.

      • kalinedrive - Jun 20, 2014 at 1:51 PM

        A reply is a response, not necessarily a rebuttal. He wasn’t discrediting your comment, he was merely commenting in relation to your remark, also known as responding.

  5. sdelmonte - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:32 AM

    1. Would rather see MLB and all sports address ongoing problems with drunk driving.

    2. Would be okay if they banned the use of chewing tobacco during the game. You can’t smoke or drink in front of the cameras, right?

    • paperlions - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:38 AM

      I think smoking is banned from stadiums except for designated areas, and that applies to everyone, not just fans.

      • sdelmonte - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:44 AM

        This would be why Jim Leyland retired.

  6. jimmyt - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:38 AM

    Taxes! Taxes! Taxes, we must have more taxes! The liberals battle cry.

    • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:46 AM

      Personal freedoms for everyone, except if they conflict with our beliefs!
      -The hypocritical conservative battle cry

      And do we really want to do this again?

      • jimmyt - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:19 AM

        That would be the battle cry of the religious right that somehow hijacked the term “conservative”. A true conservative leaves those beliefs out of politics.

      • chc4 - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:46 AM

        Hey that sounds like libs. They are so tolerant…. as long as you agree with them. If not you’re labeled evil/homophobic/racist/greedy/redneck. Am I missing any? That’s tolerance for ya!

      • 4cornersfan - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:27 PM

        jimmyt: the Republicans were conservative long before the Tea Party hijacked them. Until the turn of the 20th Century they were the more liberal party (dating back to before the Civil War). As the political conditions changed they became more and more conservative, appealing to the rural voter, who also tended to be religious.

      • koufaxmitzvah - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:28 PM

        I love the freedom of speech as expressed by chc4. Be offended by everything, and publicly condemn others for you being personally offended by them. What a gig.

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jun 20, 2014 at 1:40 PM

        They are so tolerant…. as long as you agree with them. If not you’re labeled evil/homophobic/racist/greedy/redneck. Am I missing any? That’s tolerance for ya!

        I don’t need to tolerate your intolerance. And considering every single one of these arguments starts with a conservative making a liberal crack, you have no ground to stand on regarding tolerance.

    • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:54 AM

      George was a heavy smoker. George died of cancer at 58.

    • mpzz - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:21 PM

      Texas! Texas! Texas!
      The morons’ battle cry!

  7. rcali - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:58 AM

    I’m pretty sure the dog food they serve at many stadiums has killed many more people over a long extended period of time than smokeless tobacco.

  8. sabatimus - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:07 AM

    I think every kid who watches baseball growing up should be allowed to try chew when they’re pretty young–like 7 or something–so that they can throw up and hate it for the rest of their lives.

  9. 4cornersfan - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:16 PM

    “[T]axing/regulating it to bring its actual cost as a product in line with the medical and social costs it inflicts on taxpayers and society.” Taxation and regulation are traditional ways of enforcing morals and controlling human behavior. Do we then tax and regulate normal human activities that can cause us harm or that has the potential to cause cost to the taxpayers and society? If we all wore the same kind of clothes, ate the same food and acquired the same healthy and productive habits just think of the benefits to the taxpayers and society. Think how happy and healthy we would be if everything not expressly permitted is forbidden.

  10. schlom - Jun 20, 2014 at 2:26 PM

    There is absolutely no proof that chewing tobacco caused Tony Gwynn’s cancer:

    But why let facts get in the way of a HOT TAKE!

    • stex52 - Jun 20, 2014 at 2:56 PM

      “absolutely no proof” is a pretty serious misreading of what the link you provided actually says. Tony was convinced it was related. Scientists and doctors have insufficient statistical and diagnostic data to say for sure.

      That’s what it actually said.

      • schlom - Jun 20, 2014 at 3:16 PM

        It makes sense that Gwynn attributed his illness to chewing tobacco—the stuff is known to contain toxins that trigger cancer of the lip, tongue and mouth—but as any oncologist will tell you, chewing tobacco hasn’t actually been linked to the type of cancer that killed Tony Gwynn.2 Loren Mell, chief of the head and neck radiation medicine service at the Moores Cancer Center in San Diego—and a consulting physician on the team that treated Gwynn—recently weighed in, dismissing Gwynn’s assertion that chewing tobacco was to blame. “He may have chewed tobacco,” Dr. Mell said, “but that’s not likely to be the cause.”

        So what if there has never been any proven link right? Gwynn thinks it caused it so it must be true.

      • stex52 - Jun 20, 2014 at 3:49 PM

        “Absolutely no proof.” “No proven link.” From a scientific point of view those are very different statements. The key is your use of the word “absolutely.” That is a stretch in view of the fact that the material is a known carcinogen. What is true is that the statistics are too limited to draw any “absolute” conclusions.

  11. mpzz - Jun 20, 2014 at 3:02 PM

    Really, wouldn’t you think the mere fact that it’s filthy, vile and disgusting would be enough to ban it?

  12. mlbfan8898 - Jun 20, 2014 at 3:26 PM

    Now this is a big issue just because a famous person died? So when Kershaw gets hit in the head by a line drive, then will pitchers will be required to wear a protective cap? I’m guessing that would happen since our culture is reactive to bad things that happen to important people.

    • stex52 - Jun 20, 2014 at 4:10 PM

      You may be right. But sometimes that makes the right thing happen, anyway.

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